Working as a newspaper executive I used to think I was under a lot of stress.
When friends who’d had babies told me it was harder work being at home looking after children than going to the office, frankly I scoffed.
Compared with living a rollercoaster life in a hectic office how hard could it be to care for one little person?
Then I had my daughter Lily and discovered there is no experience more relentless and all-consuming than being a mother.
Two-thirds of married women with young children now have jobs
Like every other woman I was utterly shocked by how little time I had to myself when I became a parent. I’d tidy the house but as fast as I could pick up toys my daughter would throw them on the floor.
She’d tell me she was hungry but then wouldn’t eat what I cooked. I’d give her everything she asked for then she’d dream up more demands.
It was, just as friends had warned me, so much more than a full-time job.
Like the millions of other working mums in this country I became like the white rabbit in Alice In Wonderland – in a constant race against the stopwatch I could never beat.
Two-thirds of married women with young children now have jobs according to the latest figures so it’s not surprising that surveys keep repeating the fact that more and more we regret not spending enough stress-free time with our kids.
Yet while there are hundreds of books out there telling mums how to be perfect parent, there are not enough talking about how to find more time to spend with your children in the first place.
So that’s why I interviewed time-management experts and other mums and tried dozens of hacks for myself over the last few years for my new boo Mum Hacks: Time-saving tips to calm the chaos of family life.
The idea is simply to cut out irritating distractions, frustrations and lost minutes that make the hard job of being a mother even harder.
But the book is not just about tips. It’s also about reducing out time-wasting drains like fussy-eating and sibling rows.
In the mean-time, here’s just ten of the hundreds of short-cuts from the new book, published by Crimson, price £9.99, which will instantly make life with kids that little bit easier.
1. HOSE DOWN YOUR HIGH CHAIR OR CAR SEAT
Don’t spend ages scrubbing and cleaning baked-on food in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. Wait until it’s a sunny day, take your high chair or car seat outside and give them a hose-down with a high-pressure hose or pressure washer. Then leave them to dry in the sun.
2. LOOP UNIFORM NAME TAGS
If you are in serious rush but don’t want to use a marker to stain your child’s uniform, don’t waste time stitching all the way around the name label. Double them into a loop and put three strong stitches at the end.
3. KEEP HAIR BANDS AT THE END OF YOUR HAIRBRUSH
Does you daughter need her hair in a pony-tail or plaits for school, but you can never find the bands in the fraught mornings? When you brush her hair at night, instead of putting her hair bands to one side, wrap them round end of the hairbrush so you have them ready for the next day.
4. WASH TOYS IN A DISHWASHER SAFE MESH BAG
Toys can become seriously icky over time. So get fiddly ones, like lego, plastic blocks or small action figures, clean by putting them in a mesh bag and washing them in the dishwasher on a cooler cycle.
5. STOP SPILLS
If your child is prone to knocking his cup over at the table, avoid those spills by using thick roles of gaffer tap to use as cup holders. It makes it impossible for them to knock them over.
6. LOOK OUT FOR FLIP-TOPS
Missing lids are the bane of a busy parent’s life. They have either gone AWOL (as in the case of felt-tips which then dry up leaving dozens of dried carcasses) or they simply create clutter (as in the case of toothpaste lids which never get replaced in bathroom). So opt for products with flip-tops lids. Colouring pens now come with lids, which are attached, and so do toothpaste tubes.
7. NEVER LAY THE TABLE EVER AGAIN
Why lay the table when you can stick a week’s-worth of cutlery in the middle of the table in a glass jar for everyone to take their own? Trendy restaurants do it after all.
8. TAKE THE MESS AWAY
Look for boxes on wheels that that can be rolled out for tidying up toys – and if necessary can be wheeled right to the heart of the worst mess – and then pushed back against the wall – or behind the sofa to make it all disappear again.
9. USE YOUR PHONE AS REMINDER
When you’re a busy parent, you have a lot on your mind. Use your phone as your aide memoire for everything. If you have to go shopping, take a picture of the inside of the fridge to help you remember what you need. Take photos of your work rota to your child’s school time-table so you always have an at-a-glance reference guide.
10. AVOID DISAPPEARING CAR KEYS
As soon as you open the car door, get into the habit of putting the keys straight in the ignition.
After ten minutes of buckling in kids, pacifying them and loading up the boot, you will be surprised by how easily those keys can go astray, drop down the backs of seats – or even fall into the gutter.
Buy the the book:
Mum Hacks: Time-saving tips to calm the chaos of family life by Tanith Carey, published by Crimson, price £9.99, is available on Amazon